The Annunciation

LL 3634


'The Annunciation' depicts the events described in the Gospel according to St Luke, chapter 1, verses 26-35. The Archangel Gabriel appears to the Virgin Mary, saying ‘…you have found favour with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call him Jesus…’. This subject was painted several times by Burne-Jones but this painting is the most important. Gabriel, suspended in space, appears to emerge from a tall bay or olive tree. The architectural background is clearly inspired by the artist’s visits to Italy in 1871 and 1873. The artist’s travels in Italy encouraged him to paint with a greater sense of classical structure and spatial organisation. The monumental architecture, the pale, sombre colours and the statuesque figures lend an austere grandeur to the Virgin’s predicament. The model for the Virgin is stated to have been Mrs Leslie Stephen, then (appropriately) pregnant with her fourth child who would become the celebrated artist Vanessa Bell.